Athol murder suspect back in court on Wednesday

  • HAMEL Courtesy photo/Northwestern District Attorney’s Office

Published: 1/13/2020 4:23:55 PM

GREENFIELD — An Athol man accused of murdering a 26-year-old Leominster woman last year will be in Franklin County Superior Court Wednesday.

Keith Hamel, 23, is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. on murder and other charges in connection with the Nov. 11 death of Kelsey Clifford, 26, of Leominster, according to a statement from the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

Hamel previously pleaded not guilty in Orange District Court on Nov. 20 on a charge of murder and is being held without bail. He has since been indicted and faces additional charges.

Clifford’s body was found outside the entrance to the Athol Wastewater Treatment Facility in the early-morning hours of Nov. 11. Her death was jointly investigated by the Athol Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police Detectives Unit attached to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

Since being arraigned in district court in November, Hamel has been held without bail at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction. Defense attorney John Morris, who is representing Hamel, said his client is “adamant he didn’t do it.”

According to a statement from the Athol Police Department released in November, authorities received a call just before 7 a.m. on Nov. 11 reporting that an Acura RSX was parked with its doors open on Jones Street in Athol with a person on the ground outside.

First responders found a woman, identified as Clifford, lying face down in the grass with her lower body exposed. The parked car, owned by Clifford, appeared to have blood on it, according to the Athol Police Department’s statement. Ambulance personnel observed severe trauma to Clifford’s face (stab wounds to her left side and behind her left ear), although it was unknown what was used to make the puncture wounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Through a subsequent investigation, including video surveillance from the Cumberland Farms on Main Street, authorities learned Hamel is the last person known to have seen Clifford alive, according to the Athol Police Department’s statement. The video captured Hamel exiting the passenger’s side of Clifford’s car at approximately 1:30 a.m., entering the store and purchasing cigarettes.

A witness contacted Athol Police at roughly 4:35 p.m. on Nov. 11 to report she had located a sweatshirt, which appeared to be stained with blood, in a bush on Leonard Street in Athol (within a mile of where Clifford’s body was found). The sweatshirt carried the DNA of both Hamel and Clifford.

Hamel was arrested Monday, Nov. 18, on Main Street in Athol. He has a string of previous arrests and charges including for larceny under $1,200, being a fugitive from justice on a court warrant, resisting arrest, possession of a Class B drug, and two counts of assault and battery on a police officer.

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